The parish I serve has Thanksgiving service on Wednesday Evening: Liturgically it is Thanksgiving, but this way the Turkey cooking is not interrupted. (As the Turkey cooker in my own household, I am thankful for this.)
Here is the sermon I preached, after the jump.
Thanksgiving Day. For what and to whom? The actual congressional resolution doesn’t say. It merely identifies which day it is – the fourth Thursday in November. Each year the president has historically issued a proclamation, asking the nation to give thanks to God for his many blessings. Nowadays, such proclamations have a lot less God talk in them. Thanksgiving is under attack from two directions – the secularists, who object to any thought of giving thanks to a higher power., and groups who don’t like the idea of celebrating any government holiday in a religious way – after all, the government can not establish religion, we shouldn’t let them tell us when to pray.
But Thanksgiving still stands. Historically, the church has always answered the call of government to pray, whether in times of joy, or in times of sorrow. We have days in the hymnal for thanksgiving, and for humility and prayer. So, if the government issues a proclamation asking that thanks be given to God for our blessings, the church happily obliges by gathering for prayer and giving thanks. After all, we are supposed to call upon God in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks even when we are not explicitly asked to. The church prays at the drop of a hat – whether that hat is dropped because of a tragedy, the harvest, presidential proclamation, or just because it is Sunday again.
There is much to be thankful for. Another year. Despite dry conditions and major fires, injuries were light, and the loss was only in buildings, not lives. Here we are, having been well fed, protected from war, and comfortably in our homes, able to worship without fear of government retribution this year. This congregation is still here, now finishing it’s first century of work.
There have been losses this past year – members called home. A loss to us, but gain for them. We are thankful for that as well – they have been given the crown of glory. We are thankful that God gave them to us for a time, and we look forward to a joyful reunion in heaven. That upcoming reunion is cause for our greatest thanks. Yes, God clothes feeds houses and protects us. But more than that, he promises that this world is not all there is. He gave us this world, he brings us into this world, and he protects and takes care of us in this world. But this world is a short-term proposition. The long-term plan is that all those who look to Jesus for salvation will be gathered around the throne of God and the lamb, giving thanks day and – day (there will be no night).
The thanks we offer here can never hope to repay God for all he has given. And yet, the thanks in heaven will not do that either. There is no way to repay God for all he has given you. But that does not mean that you should not take a day, set it aside, and offer thanks to him.
Of course, that’s what we do on every Lord’s day. We gather together and give thanks unto the Lord our God, because it is truly good right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to our heavenly Father. The great thanksgiving in the church is the Lord’s Supper. One of the early names for it is Eucharist – thanksgiving. The church gives thanks to God for al his benefits. He gives us bread and wine, and when we bring that to him as an offering, he turns around and gives it back to us, no longer simply bread and wine, but magnified infinitely into the food that does not spoil, but remains to eternal life: The body and blood of our dear lord Jesus Christ, that brings you forgiveness, life and salvation.
David wrote psalm 51 after he had been caught in adultery and murder. He says, against thee, thee only have I sinned. Even our sins against each other – as horrible as they may seem to us – are really sins against God.
Well, the opposite is also true. Every blessing that comes to us in this world is really a blessing from God. And every good and perfect gift which comes to us from above is a gift of God as well. The forgiveness life and salvation that Jesus gives you. The faith to grab hold of the promise. The sacraments – to give your faith an object to grab hold of. It all comes from God. There is no part of good that does not come from him.
So, it’s not just a good idea to give thanks, it’s a great idea. To spend time giving thanks to God for all he has done. For all his benefits, for all his mercies, which endure forever. Give thanks to the God of God’s, the Lord of Lord’s, today and every day. Amen.